Australian Senator Quits Albanese’s Party Over Palestine Stance

(Bloomberg) -- Australian Senator Fatima Payman has quit the governing Labor Party to sit as an independent lawmaker over Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s position on the Israel-Hamas conflict and Palestinian statehood.

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Payman, at a press conference on Thursday, said she was compelled to leave the government as a result of Labor’s “indifference to the greatest injustice of our times.”

Her departure further complicates Albanese’s path to re-election at a vote due to be held by May 2025. The government has struggled to control rising discontent over the Israel-Hamas war, balancing calls for greater action against rising antisemitism with agitation from left-wing parties and the country’s large Muslim community to take a stronger stance in support of Palestine.

“I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of injustice. My family did not flee from a wartorn country, to come here as refugees, for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people,” she said. Payman’s family arrived in Australia as refugees from Afghanistan. She was the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab in the Senate.

Payman is also the first Australian lawmaker to break with their party formally as a result of the Israel-Hamas war. The senator first signaled her dissatisfaction with the government’s stance on the conflict when she voted in favor of a Greens Party motion for the Australian Senate to recognize the state of Palestine on Tuesday last week.

Labor Party lawmakers must all vote as directed by the leadership, and it has been more than three decades since anyone broke ranks. While Albanese signaled he was prepared to allow Payman to stay in the party, breaking with tradition, by Wednesday it was clear that the senator was planning to leave Labor.

Albanese’s center-left government has called for a ceasefire in Gaza, opposed the invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza and voted in the UN in favor of Palestinian representation.

Still, dissatisfaction among Muslim voters has left Labor worried about a potential backlash in the elections. Several Australian ministers in usually safe seats have large Muslim populations. The government holds power by a slim majority of just two seats.

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